Philadelphia Eagles News

Punter Battle To Be Most Intriguing Of Camp?

It's early to start ranking the position battles at this year's training camp. There's still free agency, the draft and the mini-camps before the players arrive at Lehigh University for training camp in late July.

But the quiet acquisition of punter Durant Brooks has provided the groundwork for what could be one of the top training camp battles to watch.

Sav Rocca is about to become a restricted free agent, no matter what happens with the Collective Bargaining Agreement. In each of the last two seasons, Rocca has broken the single-season franchise record for net punting average. He's also the holder for David Akers and Akers would not have had a Pro Bowl year without him.

Last year, the Eagles didn't push Rocca in training camp. The addition of Brooks signals something different.

A sixth-round pick of the Redskins in 2008, Brooks played in six games and averaged 39.6 yards per punt before he was released. Specialists aren't usually drafted, but Brooks was because he won the Ray Guy Award (top collegiate punter) in his senior year at Georgia Tech.

It was extra special for Brooks because Guy is a close family friend of Brooks'.

"To know that he worked with me and got me started and got me going on the right path and helped me get to where I was, it was just incredible," Brooks said. "You couldn't ask for much more."

Why was Brooks released after just six games? He did allow two touchdowns - one of them was to DeSean Jackson. But there was also a nagging hip injury that prevented him from winning the punting job in Green Bay last season.

"I'm not sure if that played a factor or what, but that injury is in the past and I don't like to talk about it too much because it's been an issue before and now it's fine so we'll leave it at that," Brooks said.

Brooks said that he's learned in the last year how to prevent the injury from becoming a factor.

The Eagles ranked 17th in special teams last year, according to Dallas Morning News' columnist Rick Gosselin's ranking system which is considered the Bible by the NFL. New special teams coordinator Bobby April worked Brooks out and obviously saw enough talent to warrant a two-year deal. April turned Brian Moorman into a two-time Pro Bowl punter during his six-year tenure with the Bills.

When the Eagles signed Rocca in 2007, he was a former Aussie Football star with a booming leg. But it's not just raw distance that makes a quality NFL punter.

"There's a ton of people that probably have a stronger leg than me and a lot of people that aren't in the NFL that have strong legs," Brooks said. "There's a lot more to it that just strength. You have to have the accuracy part, the consistency part. That plays a huge role. That's the balance you have to find to become an NFL punter."

Brooks averaged 45.3 yards per punt during his college career, which set an ACC record. He pinned 68 of his 144 punts inside the 20-yard line at Georgia Tech. Brooks' longest punt in a game was 77 yards and he claims to have hit a 100-yard punt (with a good bounce) in practice.

The longest punt in Eagles history isn't by a punter, at least a full-time one. Randall Cunningham hit a 91-yarder against the Giants in 1989.

-- Posted by Chris McPherson, 3:59 p.m., February 20

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